The Latest: Australia welcomes support for virus inquiry
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Japan plunges into recession as US states start opening up.
— Greece reopens Acropolis in Athens and other ancient sites.
— European leaders consult on possibility of summer vacations.
— India reports 5,242 new cases, largest single-day surge, and 157 deaths.
Australia’s government welcomed international support for an independent investigation of the coronavirus pandemic, a proposed inquiry that has been condemned by China and blamed for a bilateral trade rift.
The European Union has drafted a resolution, cosponsored by dozens of countries including Australia, that has been gaining support and is expected to be approved in a vote at the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week. The resolution before the assembly, the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, calls for an evaluation of the origins of the pandemic and responses to it.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Monday her government had been keen to ensure that the resolution stipulates the inquiry be “impartial, independent and comprehensive.”
“We’re very encouraged by the growing levels of support for this comprehensive World Health Assembly motion,” Payne told reporters. “We look forward to seeing hopefully a positive outcome later this week.”
Australia has been seen as a leader in rallying global support for such an inquiry, attracting Chinese criticism that it is parroting the United States and inviting a Chinese boycott of exports and services.
The motion comes as Australia struggles to resolve a dispute with China over beef imports. Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said he's been unable to speak with his Chinese counterpart about China’s ban on meat from Australia’s four largest abattoirs over labeling issues.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece reopened the Acropolis in Athens and other ancient sites Monday, along with high schools, shopping malls and mainland travel in the latest round of easing pandemic restrictions imposed in late March.
Paving stickers were used as markers to keep visitors apart outside the Acropolis, while students were placed on rotation with online teaching to keep classes below 50% capacity.
Public compliance with strict lockdown measures helped keep the COVID-19 death toll to 166 while the total number of confirmed cases stood at 2,834 on Sunday. But authorities are keen to reopen the vital tourism sector, following a warning by the EU Commission that Greece is likely to suffer the worst recession in the bloc this year.
Public beaches reopened over the weekend amid heatwave temperatures, with strict distancing rules imposed by the government, but crowding did occur on buses from Athens to the nearby coast.
Travel to the Greek islands remains broadly restricted.
BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister is consulting with 10 European colleagues on how to go about making summer vacations elsewhere on the continent possible.
Germany’s two-month-old warning against tourist travel to any country is due to expire on June 14. It and other countries aim to restore free travel across their borders next month.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas planned a video conference Monday with counterparts from 10 countries that are popular destinations for Germans. He told ZDF television that “we want to discuss under what criteria a summer vacation could be possible” – including issues such as entry rules and quarantine requirements that some nations have imposed.
Maas said countries also will have to agree on a mechanism “to react very quickly” if coronavirus infections surge again. He added that “even if a summer vacation will be possible elsewhere in Europe, which I hope, one has to say that this vacation this year won’t be like the ones we know from the past, because the pandemic is still there and we must at least have safety precautions for the worst case that the figures get worse again.”
BRUSSELS — Belgium took the next step in its relaxation of the country's coronavirus lockdown on Monday, with more students going to school, and markets and museums reopening.
Schools were permitted to go through a dry run on Friday, but primary and secondary classes resumed for real Monday with a limited amount of pupils to make sure social distancing was fully respected. In many cases, though, distance learning on laptops remained the order of the day.
Barbers can also resume work, even though Monday used to be their traditional day off. Both barber and client will have to wear protective masks.
Hoping to make the most of the sunny weather, open-air markets can start selling the plentiful spring fruits and vegetables.
And zoo animals, bereft of visitors since March, will have eyes on them again as parks can reopen. Museums will reopen as well and, like zoos, will have a strict reservation system to avoid overcrowding.
KEY WEST, Fla. — The Florida Keys will reopen to tourists on June 1, more than two months after the island chain closed to visitors to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
Checkpoints that barred visitors from coming into the Florida Keys will be removed next month, Monroe County Emergency Management said in a statement Sunday. Hotels and other lodging establishments will also be allowed to reopen at 50% occupancy, the statement said.
Those businesses must implement sanitation stations and follow the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s cleaning guidelines for COVID-19.
The Florida Keys have been closed to visitors since March 22.
NEW DELHI, India — India has recorded its biggest single-day surge with 5,242 new cases of coronavirus and 157 deaths due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s infection tally to more than 96,000, the most in Asia.
The country now has 3,029 reported fatalities due to COVID-19.
The surge in infections comes a day after the federal government extended a nationwide lockdown to May 31 but eased some restrictions to restore economic activity and gave states more control in deciding the nature of the lockdown.
Authorities are largely attributing the recent surge in infections to the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to India’s villages, which have weaker health infrastructure.
India had eased its lockdown rules on May 4 and even allowed migrant workers to travel back to their homes, a decision that has resulted in millions of people being on the move for the last two weeks.
All domestic and international passenger flights remain prohibited in the country. Metro services, schools, colleges, hotels and restaurants also remain shuttered nationwide.
Most of the infections reported in India are from its major cities. Mumbai, the financial capital and home to Bollywood, alone has registered almost 20% of the total cases.
MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — The government in the Pakistani-administered sector of Kashmir announced it is reimposing full lockdown measures beginning Monday night after several people tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The move came days after about two dozen more people tested positive in Pakistan-held Kashmir, where so far 112 confirmed cases have been reported. The region has reported only one coronavirus-related death.
The lockdown was imposed in Pakistan-held Kashmir in March to contain the spread of the virus. But it was eased in April. Kashmir is a split between Pakistan and neighboring India but claimed by both in its entirety.
The announcement came as Pakistan reported 30 more deaths from the new coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, raising overall fatalities in the country to 903. So far, 42,125 confirmed cases have been reported in Pakistan, a total that includes the 112 infections in Pakistan-held Kashmir.